Stanton Helms doesn’t have much free time these days, between his new year-long internship at Zdi and his quest to earn his college degree at Columbia College in live and installed sound. But he makes sure that just about every free moment he has is spent with his 5-year-old son and 7-month-old daughter.
Helms, 37, is working at Zdi through InfoComm International’s new International Communications Industries Foundation (ICIF) grant program. Before joining Zdi after hearing about the program on campus and meeting Jeremy Caldera, lead audiovisual design engineer at Zdi and Columbia College professor, Helms spent about 13 years working in IT and two years in the live audio space at his Chicago-area church.
Immersing in InfoComm Experience
He spent a few days at InfoComm 2015 in Orlando, Fla., learning the ropes of the AV industry by following Caldera, taking a handful of classes, attending networking events such as the annual awards dinner (where Caldera was named Young AV award winner), and occasionally venturing out on his own to make acquaintances.
“This is the perfect time for me to follow my dreams,” says Helms. “I’m looking for this to be a great foundation for me to continue my career in the AV industry.”
Under the ICIF grant program, which replaced the general scholarship awards of past years, companies pay a $2,000 tuition reimbursement to participate, with the other $2,000 coming through the foundation. The companies will work with their local colleges and universities to pick the students they think will best fit their needs for a paid part-time job, mentoring and InfoComm education and certification.
ICIF also has interns working at Unified AV Systems and four more at an overseas integration firm. Helms and his fellow industry rookies could help pave the way to a larger group of newcomers in 2016. InfoComm will continue to award the $5,000 Michael Vergauwen Fund scholarship to students who are children of men or women already in the industry.
Good Opportunity for Zdi, Too
“InfoComm’s mission is advancing the AV industry and a key part of that is workforce development and attracting talent,” says InfoComm International executive director and CEO David Labuskes. “This is a direct opportunity for us to double the work the ICIF can do and create a direct link between students and employers. That’s a lot more valuable than writing a check and never having any connection.”
For Caldera, the ICIF grant program represented an opportunity to do something he’d long wanted to do at Zdi: start an internship program. “It made sense to do it this way instead of trying to start something on my own,” says Caldera.
Caldera reviewed about 20 applications for the ICIF grant program, he says, quickly narrowing the group to three or four finalists. Helms stood out, he says, because “he’s someone taking a complete leap of faith to pursue his passion. We get a lot of people who just want a job, but the job isn’t a passion for them, so it was nice to see that.”
Caldera is excited to have someone with an IT background along for the ride at his AV integration firm. “His background is very suited to what we want to do with all the talk about AV and IT convergence these days,” says Caldera.